The International Writers Festival 2019: Call Me by Your Name



I'm in the subway and I want to take a note I will note it down in French or in Italian not in English it doesn't come as a note but later when I go home I look at the notes I translate it into English and then I go on into English okay yeah sometimes it's memory sometimes it's it's transpositions of what happened in my life I think that when you're writing from memory especially memory you're not you don't invent facts but you shift the furniture around so that it's no longer the same rule but it is the same room but the furniture has been moved and sometimes you remove the furniture because there's too much for example the best example the most classic example is that in the book out of Egypt I removed my brother he was he was not killed he was just totally not there and I did I didn't want to do that but my editor said there are too many children in this book so remove one I said there's only two of us she said well then I think your brother has to go and so I said fine and it took me like half a day to remove every single instance of his presence in the book so that is okay I mean and I made my mother a different kind of woman and she was and my father said you made me evil I said well you weren't that nice to begin with but then I hope he's happy with call me by your name because the father yes no I read part of as my father was and that's the sad part my father was dying and we got the book in French finally so I said I'm going to read to you some scenes and he liked it a lot and because my father was a very open-minded person there were no problems there was no issue and but so that was it so I I try not to I you know people always ask me when they read any book I've written they always say was that me and I and I love when they asked me this because I always say yes and sometimes I'm lying between the first Pokemon second one oh it's a very good question I wrote a book of essays I wrote many essays and many reviews I became very busy basically finally when you have a book out you want to speak to everybody so I wrote many articles that became a travel writer and I hate traveling but I didn't tell that to anybody but they knew in fact the editor of the magazine say we want you to go to Italy to write a piece I said yeah I could do this piece just but you have to go to Italy so because I didn't want to go to Italy but anyway but I just did rest I'm sorry you asked me about 12 years 12 years I'm not avoiding the question I wrote many essays I I put out a book of essays called false papers and then I started another novel which the first chapter appeared in The New Yorker and everybody wanted to buy it which was a good good thing and they paid money and then I started writing a book about a man and a woman who mate at the party how many of you have met someone at a party that you had an affair with please raise your hand don't make me feel as if I'm sick okay thank you it was a sick question here right but I need to get support but anyway they may meet at the party they are immediately attracted to each other but they don't go to bed together right away they wait one night they go to the movies the second night the third night they go to the movies again they get they drink they have they meet for dinner they go to the movies there's a festival and ironically or not ironically it's an eerie calm a festival for those of you who know éric rohmer you'll understand what is so special nobody has sex in Erica mad and I didn't want to have sex in my book I wanted them to let the romance mature except by the third day it became impossible to write they had to go to bed together and I didn't know what excuse to make for them not to go to bed so I decided to put this bulk aside they had already paid for it so I didn't have to worry and I began to I woke up one morning I wanted to be in Italy my wife said we can't go to Italy this week this year because of many other obligations I said fine and I started writing about being in Italy and it was a house in Italy that was inspired by a wonderful painting by Monet about a house in Italy and I started writing it and I remembered my childhood and I said there was one thing that happened when I was very very young I was very attracted to a boy and I was eight or nine years old and he was have been 16 17 maybe 18 I never know and I wanted to write about that about the beach where we used to go every summer and I would meet this boy and I was I wanted to be his friend I knew nothing about sex there was nothing sexual but I transposed it and I made the boy a bit older 17 years old and I made the other person you know seven years old 24 and that immediately as soon as I did that it just took off I couldn't stop writing it which is a blessing for a writer when you basically you don't want to go out you don't want to take a phone call you don't want to you skip meals because you're writing you're living this amazing romance I had no idea that it was that amazing and I fell in love with him with that guy with their love and I couldn't let it go and in three months I was done then I went back to the other no 14 months yeah it's a known fact I wrote it in three months and and and then we have to go back to the other book where they weren't going to have sex and it was a very big disappointment back to this and you also write about in research and teach post yes you think influence РI don't know I think he did he influenced me in many ways because Proust is always what is the way he's always excavating and excavating his identity or whoever he thinks he is he's excavating his men is excavating going through time and I love that act by which a writer simply does not say I saw him I was attracted to him I wanted to go to sleep with him that is not the way I write you have to hesitate you have to feel ashamed you have to feel that maybe you don't really want him you don't like him you hope he dies so that you can stop you go through all a litany of variations before you realize we have to go to bed together and how do you go to bed with someone you have to tell them something and you just don't say you know let's kiss and you can't and so it's difficult and the difficulty of becoming intimate with someone it's something that I'm very good at and I think the host does the same thing I think that's one of the I mean it calls for reading the book you want to compare between the two and I think one of the things that the book has adaptation is that you can see the entire process of thoughts that go through a Leo's mind and actually I thought that we actually got to see all of us side as well a tiny bit you see it and which was refreshing and suffering for sure you had to somehow voke 16 or 17 year old the 16 or 17 year old in thirdly because how can I be an adult and have that complicated passion well you can I mean I was 55 when I wrote this book so I was already older defunct but no you're not you're just you desire people all your life you desire them and you desire them I think don't raise your hands but if you want to you know but you know basically you may be a different person than you were when you were 16 or 17 we're all different but we desire we don't we desire the same way and I don't think we grow up in any way we make the same mistakes we made at the age of 17 that we make at the age of 60 65 and so on my father was a man who had I think girlfriends all his life and he desired them the same way and he would say I am still a kid I have not grown up and he basically treated every woman the same exact way and quoted them in the same exact way and I can say the same thing about me although you know I'm married that's so that's it that's all so shifting of furniture because I was I was wondering the speech that the father gives at the end of the broken the end of the movie is it's heartbreaking and also it makes you jealous of Eliam having such a father but it's heartbreaking and I was wondering her standpoint is that is that your standpoint as opposed to Ellie oh I mean obviously now that you said that it's not your standpoint but I felt it could be the standpoint of somebody who's anyway never had this thing in his life or could only dream of having something like that well I think he he is for the time being he is very much in love with his wife and I don't think that he was when he said it's funny in the movie it sounds different right you know and in the book I I wrote it I never thought but people ask me questions all the time when the father says I could have had something like this but it never happened what he's really saying is not I could have had a gay romance he says I could have had a powerful of relationship like this but somehow it never worked in my life I never had it in the movie though he says the same exact words the same exact words the inflection is different so that you understand that the father saying something about his probably never having and might have wanted a gay relationship seems like he's yourself infatuated with Oliver at least at first I that I never thought of but it's a good idea asks him about mother exactly it seems like he's asking him does she know about you know about me yes exactly in the book you know this authors can be stupid basically when I wrote the book he says does mom know what it meant as does mom know that I and Oliver were sleeping together in the film though the words are the same this somehow they mean does mom know that you could have had a gay relationship and you didn't and yeah and people have asked me this and I said you know what you probably are right I'm wrong so how did he feel about the meditation I loved it I loved the form and I I was told that that the the the direct something about the film I had read the script but the script is taught basically people don't necessarily abide by the script they change it as they go along and that's a good thing in cinema and so I had no idea how it was going to end and no and the Luca had told me we couldn't have the last shot is going to be the boy looking straight into the camera and crying and I said oh my god that's lovely idea lovely idea and what I said to myself well this is gonna be terrible you know like what is this nineteen thirties and so I just said okay I'm going to expect the worst but of course when you see the film and you seem looking into the camera or into the fireplace you can see him smiling not smiling having tears not tearing not Рsobbing and in the background which is absolutely superb there are people sort of setting the table and then walking back and forth until they say a Leo but as the he's there staring and the music is playing and I was told that he helped the music coming into his ear as it was being filmed suddenly you see these the titles come correct and that's the moment I think oh my god I am the author of the book and I'm going to cry okay I'm not supposed to grin supposed to laugh at this okay but basically when you see the titles you suddenly realize oh my god they're never going to beat again it's over it's finished and that was a very powerful moment so I thought he was brilliant but then in the book we do have them you do have a meeting again I want to have a few minutes left I want to have two questions more one is about the music because if I feel like we have to talk about the place of the music of a Leo's music in the book and in the movie where this is what he does right he adapts music he tries to take some persons some composers music and to play it as another composer yes can you explain that yes first of all I did Рannoying Jewish people because on one well its yes it was not difficult I did it because I wanted to take what piece of music did I choose the last words of Christ okay I really wanted because he's a Jewish boy but he's open-minded and he's interested in Haydn's or a quartet it's a quartet for you know two instruments four instruments and what am I saying it's a quartet and he wants to reduce this quartet into one instrument looking for one identity for the music and he cannot and but he does it I mean he does the transcription but he realizes that he cannot be played on one instrument alone so that is the theme of the book and embodying himself in another person's body or soul playing another person's oh and remember when he plays a piece by Bach he plays it four times right so it's it's very kind I knew what I was doing okay I was not an idiot that way but but basically it's it's a but when Luca told me we're going to have the music of sushi and Stevens and I said and I said and I said to my wife did you ever hear of such a rule so as she said no I never heard of them so I placed the text to one of my son's he says dad are you crazy it's he's very famous so I said okay that's good I had never no idea but I was very happy with the music so so the next book is coming out in October I read and it's a sequel how can you how are what how can this story continue it has to stop okay but I just felt that you know you write a book like this and you learn a lot you learn where do you learn it from what you learned from yourself but through the agency of the book as you're writing you learn things and I fell in love with I fell in love with a Leo there's no question and I wanted to see what he was like when he was 10 years older so I took him there and I was also interested in the father because the father is a person who's very deep and he basically must be very charming and I said well what if we make him meet someone even though he's of a certain age okay and then know it's a woman it's a woman not everybody's gay okay but and then of course I was interested in what happens to all of her now that he's married and he suddenly because somebody's playing a piece of music on the piano at a party and he hears the music interest oh my god I'm thinking of a Leo and he suddenly realizes that nothing has been settled and it's 20 years later and something needs to be done and so that's the third instance in the book and there's a fourth one but I'm not going to reveal it so so you'll wait for October so I hope so thank you questions from the audience if you have any yes all the way back maybe you can stand up in the film when you do and Oliver is asking and what if he is something against his marriage is it also in the book against his what his marriage to a woman no actually when any I hear that he's getting married in the book he says oh great you're getting married oh that's wonderful getting married is wonderful and it takes him a while to understand oh wait that means that it's over but he asks him to come in his bed in the book and all of us says no you know I can't do that he says come on well this is ridiculous and he won't do it so it takes a while for the revelation to come through in the book in the movie it's done in it phone call but it's still done very well there is a moment when a Leo will call Oliver a Leo and Oliver will say what and a Leah will say oh he's forgotten and that happens later in the book okay yes and I want to know if this is how you imagined Elio because I had a whole new image of him I had a whole different image of him I thought him as a very insecure very short guy I don't know why but this is what came up to me so I'm asking when you first watch the film were you surprised to see him I mean not as insecure and short this is a lie this is how I imagined Elio see you in the movie РI'll tell you what the problem is you ask me how did I imagine a Leo what has happened is and how did I imagine all of them I can no longer remember I remember Timothy and I remember Armie Hammer but I cannot remember what they were like they basically the film has superimposed itself on my imagination to the point where I can no longer think of them so when you wrote that book the sequel who had been my hair reactors in mind I could no I'm saying cuz this is exactly how I would imagine Oliver but earlier the big surprise to me me for my experience of that small humble reading but I think that's always the case right when you imagine characters in your mind and you can imagine yourself as a character and then yes so thank you very much for a beautiful and very moving book that has led to the creation of a very beautiful piece of art in the film my my question actually you've sort of touched upon it just briefly in your response to the previous question which is in what way because the sequel well sorry the novel in its final chapter more two chapters treated the two characters quite differently to where the film leaves us yes and when you come to write a sequel I the question I had was how what's the interplay between these two pieces of art which are related but also quite distinct and with some quite distinct elements in the film which aren't in the novel well the film takes place in the number of weeks that the Army is in the house and then you have a moment in wintertime at Christmas however in the the book ends 20 years later and therefore what I did is I exploited 10 years after 15 years after 20 years after and maybe 21 years after so I basically I took advantage of the spaces that were left in the novel to fill them with other moments in the lives of the characters yes after watching the movie since when I sewed the relationship between the father and the son without judgment it was embraced by the openness is very unusual because it doesn't go to the usual tropes that you find in most gay coming-out stories somebody dies somebody gets beaten up somebody's made fun of bullied humiliated ruined basically so I didn't want to go there but I was lucky because in essence I had a father who taught me a lot of things about sex and I didn't learn it from books I didn't learn it from people I learned it from my father who basically was a very he had experienced everything and so he was very open-minded there was nothing that you could do wrong with your body if somebody else wanted to join you in it so there was that was a lesson and so I was transpositional Inc my father when the father gives his speech which is basically you have one life and you want to enjoy it and you want to do the best you can with it don't listen to anybody lots of people and I'm this is this was not my mission but lots of people have been we've been inspired by the book to use that as a sort of a launching to speak to their parents and to come out to their parents because the first people you have to come out with to is your parents the others are your friends they don't care they won't mind they'll say but the parents is where it matters and if the parents don't accept you well you have to make decisions it was it was really beautifully and it's kind of emotional breakthrough for the future even proposing kissed you okay was the process with James ivory our davido started and I'm satisfied you are with the process I can explain this it's it's a nice question I take it you're in the film business in the photography business okay the James ivory finally materialized at the beginning there were other directors there were other options but James ivory came and he said I'm going to redo the script because the first script was not good and I'm going to direct and I thought if James ivory is going to direct fantastic if he's doing the script all the better then Luca joined forces and I don't know how they work together but it became obvious that one of them was going to direct you can't have two directors and and I was I was I was happy because I had seen one film in particular by Luca which I adored called was it called I am love I don't know if it played here in Jerusalem I am loved I played this winter it's it's it's a beautiful film but it took forever to make and but I was very happy so in essence I would I felt okay everything is fine I don't have to worry they'll do the film one day they will eventually film it because I felt they're never going to film movies they always say we'll buy the option blah blah blah then it expires and nobody does anything anyway then they sent me the script and said you have any comments and I read the script I said I don't want to have a comment I will not intrude there's one problem and one scene that I think you should change and I'm sorry yeah okay no it's a it's a very important scene it's the key to the film and I couldn't believe they messed it up James I've been writing the script he said that the father and the mother talked together in bed oh hi how are you fine I don't know but they they talk and they say do you think there's something going on between the two boys I don't know well you know there's this new disease out there and it's very dangerous and I and I said and then there's a scene in which the two boys are in the swimming pool they're swimming together and I said and they said look there's something going there's definitely something going on I said that will ruin the film what you have to do is let the boy be surprised by the father's speech you have to have the audience be surprised that the father knew all along what was going on if the parents have a conversation you ruin the climax of the film and so that was my contribution to the film I think I was totally right can you imagine the parents talking about AIDS I mean it was I mean it was relevant in 1983 it was very relevant but it's not the story it's not the the message of the film so I wanted the suspense to exist but otherwise Luca is a fantastic director he has perfect instincts I don't think he did anything wrong the film was three hours and some long so he had to trim it down but that's everybody does that okay I think we have to end now I'm sorry we're out of time thank you so much thank you [Applause]

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